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You Don’t Know Brett: Ten Lessons From the Kavanaugh Hearings

The Brett Kavanaugh hearings proved to be yet another shameless foray into political theatre–not much more than a spectacle of the utmost proportions. Surrounding one highly credible and candid witness (Blasey Ford), we saw self-serving members of Congress jockeying for future positions with their sometimes ridiculous, sometimes laughable, and sometimes overwrought rhetoric. We saw a very typical entitled rich white man acting as if he had worked hard his whole life and deserved every great fortune he has received. He seemingly had no regrets or mistakes in his past (or present, or future, presumably.)

It’s fairly obvious that Kavanaugh cannot be trusted. He has already perjured himself in the past. We didn’t need to hear the Republicans spew their litany of erroneous, misogynist, religious-tinged nonsense. We didn’t need to hear the Democrats attempt to be heroes, however disingenuous they may be. (Ahem – does Juanita Broaddrick ring a bell?) What I think we need to hear are some simple truths about how people and our society generally function, which could put the Kavanaugh hearings in a non-partisan context.

Here are ten lessons from life in America that we might keep in mind:

1. People wear many disguises for the many aspects of their lives. In college, I saw nasty, drunken acts by men who turned into choir boys in front of their professors, parents, and priests. (I attended a Catholic school). I used to refer to some of these shape-shifting peers as “Jekyll and Hydes.” People can be a variety of things to a variety of people at a variety of times.

2. The preponderance of women do not lie about sexual assault. There have been a few notable fictitious claims of abuse in the past, but in the overwhelming majority of the cases, women’s claims of sexual assault are true and their disclosure comes at a tremendous price to the victim.

3. People of money, power, and privilege are prone to take advantage of others. That’s how the garner their wealth and power, that’s how they maintain it, and that’s often why they aspire to it in the first place. (See the #MeToo movement for evidence.)

4. People who are lying dodge questions, refrain from answering, change the subject, change their stories, and/or offer more information than is asked.

5. Narcissistic, entitled people feel slighted to even be questioned about themselves or their character all. They become inflamed that anyone should accuse them of anything.

6. Wealth and power are not measures of a decent person. In fact, these characteristics probably should always be considered suspect.

7. Societal success–in a society replete with poverty, homelessness, rampant socioeconomic inequality, and such extreme environmental degradation that it threatens to kill our entire species – probably should not be considered real success at all.

8. Belief in god is not an indication of morality.

9. Many people lie under oath, most especially the most powerful and privileged.

10. People are not necessarily who they appear to be on a resume or in public or with friends (or now, on social media). Unless you have lived with someone for a decent period of time – as a parent, sibling, spouse, child, or roommate of that person – it is likely you do not truly, fully know that person or what he/she is capable of doing. And even then, you still may not know him/her at all …

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Kristine Mattis received her PhD in Environmental Studies. As an interdisciplinary environmental scholar with a background in biology, earth system science, and policy, her research focuses on environmental risk information and science communication. Before returning to graduate school, Kristine worked as a medical researcher, as a science reporter for the U.S. Congressional Record, and as a science and health teacher. She can be reached at:  k_mattis@outlook.com.

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